LE CASTELLET (France) • Lewis Hamilton can expect a welcome boost in engine power this weekend as Formula One embarks on an unprecedented triple-header at a French Grand Prix returning to the calendar after a decade's absence.
Le Castellet's Paul Ricard circuit last hosted a Formula One race in 1990, before 10 of the current 22 drivers were born, and has been reconfigured from the one fondly remembered by older generations.
France's most recent grand prix was at Magny-Cours in 2008, the year Hamilton won his first world championship with McLaren, and it remains a country that has yet to see the Mercedes driver triumph.
If the four-time world champion does so on Sunday, he will take another record from retired great Michael Schumacher - most wins at different grands prix. The pair are tied on 22 at present, although Hamilton holds the record for different tracks (25) after winning in Azerbaijan this year.
Hamilton is one point behind Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel (121) after seven races, with the German taking the lead in Canada two weekends ago with his 50th career win.
Ferrari and other rivals had an engine upgrade for that race and Mercedes did not. Reigning champions Mercedes had delayed the introduction of their planned upgrade due to what they said was a "quality issue", a problem that also affected customer teams Williams and Force India.
That should change as of this weekend, with Mercedes planning on making the change as Hamilton bids to hit back in the first of three races on successive weekends.
The France-Austria-Britain sequence of races poses a fresh logistical challenge for teams hitherto committed only to back-to-back weekends, with the 21-round season hurrying to the halfway point.
The three-in-a-row format was scheduled specifically to avoid a clash with football's World Cup final in Russia on July 15.
"France should be an interesting race. We don't often get to race on a track where we have little to no historical data," said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.
"It makes preparing for the weekend a bit trickier, but that element of the unknown also adds to the challenge. The triple-header will test all F1 teams to their limits, but also offers the chance to score a lot of points over the course of three weeks."